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Using innovative teaching approaches to bring maths to life

 Valerie Vincent, Maths Teacher at The Compton School

Valerie Vincent - The Compton School
Valerie Vincent is a maths teacher at The Compton School in North Finchley, London. She holds a Master’s degree in Process Engineering and Environment from the INSA Toulouse in France and studied renewable energies with the ERASMUS exchange program at Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden. After a successful career as an engineer at Airbus, Valerie decided to become a maths teacher and now enjoys linking concepts with real life through discussions and experiments in her lessons, as well as running a Maths in Motion club. Valerie Vincent - The Compton School

“…In schools, as well as at home, girls and boys should be treated equally when it comes to expectations, support and opportunities…”

Being part of a multi-national company was good, but having a direct impact on children’s lives and their ability to achieve is amazing

After obtaining my Master’s degree in engineering, I worked for a year in a London-based company, designing rainwater and greywater systems. I then moved back to France to work for Airbus in Toulouse where I was helping with the project management of the fire detection and fire protection systems for the new A320 Neo aircraft.

Being part of such a successful company was exciting and I was glad to play a part in the design of a new technology system. At the same time, I was volunteering once a week for a charity helping disadvantaged teenagers with homework. I had always kept the idea of becoming a teacher in my mind and this voluntary work made me realise that teaching young people was what I really wanted to do. Being part of a multi-national company was good, but having a direct impact on children’s lives and their ability to achieve was amazing.

I decided to go back to the UK and, after a few months, I heard about the Get into Teaching campaign, which presented the perfect opportunity for me. I visited several schools and spent a week at The Compton School in North Finchley, Barnet. I loved it and decided to apply for The Compton SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) to train as a maths teacher. The year was intense but the quality of the training as well as the support I received were both excellent.

I have been working as a fully qualified teacher for two years now, and I have even started teaching A-level maths this year. I am so pleased with my choice to become a maths teacher!

Sharing innovative approaches to teaching

On a day-to-day basis, my time is mostly divided between teaching, planning and creating resources, and marking. I also spend time running clubs, communicating with parents or other members of the school about children’s progress and taking part in meetings and CPD (continuing professional development) training sessions. 

At The Compton, innovative approaches are shared, discussed and used in the classroom. The Teaching and Learning team is very pro-active in learning about new relevant publications or research which is then shared with the rest of the school through CPD sessions or in the Teaching and Learning newsletter, published every half term.

Equally, the Compton SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) works in parallel with the Teaching and Learning team to make sure that innovative approaches are taught to future teachers. As a result, both the school and the SCITT have been rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Reversing gender inequality and reassuring girls that “they can do it”

Currently the uptake of girls choosing to study A-level maths and physics is low and we all need to work on addressing this. Our society is making progress in the right direction in terms of gender equality, but there are still inequalities in the workplace.

Even today, the majority of executive positions, and especially the ones related to new technologies, are held by men. Because so few women are present in these industries, girls are not necessarily attracted to these kinds of jobs as they struggle to identify with the current workforce. This is a vicious circle – fewer girls will be choosing to study scientific topics and fewer women will be working in the scientific world. But I would like to see this reverse in future, replacing the “fewer” with “more”.

To achieve this, we have to act both in schools and in the professional world. In schools, as well as at home, girls and boys should be treated equally when it comes to expectations, support and opportunities. Instilling confidence in girls is crucial for them to develop an “I can do it’’ mindset, which is key to learning in maths or physics.

Using discussions to link concepts to real life in my lessons

For me, as a teacher, linking maths concepts to real life is key to students’ enjoyment of the subject and enables them to understand why mathematical knowledge is so important in everyday life.

Great Pyramid of Giza

During my lessons, students apply concepts that they have just learnt to real life problems. As an example, my GCSE students use 3D Pythagoras to work out the length of the vertices of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and my Key Stage 3 students use coordinates to work out the location of a Mayan lost city.

I also try to apply these concepts to teaching A-level. For example, I recently used the trajectory of a cartoon character to explain the use of parametric equations. I also think that asking students to link their own interests to maths is a great way to make them curious and want to learn even more. Last year, my Year 9 students made some amazing presentations about maths and music, maths and cipher, maths and bees and maths and beauty.

Colourful and interesting corridor displays are another perfect way to ignite students’ curiosity about maths. The following are all displays that the maths department created for the corridor this year:

  • “How does Google know where I am?’’
  • “How old is this mummy?’’
  • “How can I score the perfect penalty?’’
  • “How can I predict the future?’’

New resources and technology are helping to bring maths to life for our pupils

New resources and technology, such as interactive whiteboards, are an excellent way to bring maths to life in the classroom. Being able to show videos and use specific maths tools directly on the board are great ways to make maths more interactive. At the Compton, we also have a lesson in an ICT classroom every two weeks with each of our classes.

The students really enjoy these lessons and they get to use maths specific software such as MyMathsMangahigh and MathsWatch, designed to suit different needs and abilities.

Helping students understand how they can apply maths in their careers

I feel that it is very important to help students understand how they could use maths in their career. They often think that what they learn in class will not be transferrable to everyday life. Students need to see how maths is necessary and used every day in many careers such as hospitality, retail, banking, medicine, engineering, design and architecture. Linking maths concepts to real-life situations inspires students and helps them realise the importance of these concepts to their future careers.

Heading to Ghana

Ghanain boyLooking to the future, in July 2017, another teacher and I will be taking 16 A-level students to Ghana, where we will be helping two local schools, building classrooms, teaching and delivering school equipment. I am looking forward to this trip and I am sure that the students will learn a lot from this life experience.

Next year, I am looking forward to carrying on teaching Key Stages 3, 4 and A-level at The Compton, ready to encourage more girls to follow and enjoy a scientific path.

In 2018, The Compton will be opening a new free school. This is an excellent opportunity to allow collaborative teaching between the two schools, making sure that more and more students are being taught with the outstanding methods already in place at The Compton.

Interested in inspiring children to get into maths? To find out more and explore your options as a teacher, contact the Get Into Teaching line on 0800 389 2500 or visit getintoteaching.education.gov.uk. 

There is a particular demand for teachers in a range of subjects, including; maths, physics, chemistry, computing, geography, biology and languages. Free workshops are being held offering one-to-one support with your application to teacher training: getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/teaching-events/application-workshop-events.






The Great Pyramid of Giza image credit: Nina at the Norwegian bokmål language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Career options for those who are good in Maths

Careers in mathematics is beyond boring. One can make predictions for companies, analyze data and formulate policies too if they are good at mathematics.

Interesting courses for those who love maths. (Representational image)

Mathematics is the most commonly studied subject globally, according to Cambridge international study. It says 66 per cent of students are being privately tutored for mathematics, while 43 per cent are tutored for physics. Yet, it’s a fact that everyone is not a math lover. While some students enjoy studying statistics, algebra, arithmetic among others, few might fear them. There are, however, enough options for both categories.

Let’s dive deep to understand career options for a person who is good in math:

Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni

Statistician: How can you reach to a conclusion to say Virat Kohli is India’s third-most successful test captain after MS Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly? You analyse and interpret data from their test matches. It needs the expertise to reach such a conclusion that can be presented in the form of pie charts, bar graphs, tables, etc. A statistician is a good career option for people who are good at maths. The role is required in a number of areas including healthcare, education, crime, business, ecology, politics, sports and entertainment and practically speaking in every field you can think of. To be a statistician, you need to have Bachelor’s in Mathematics/ Statistics followed by a Master’s in Statistics.

Economist: What’s common among Amartya Sen, Raghuram Rajan, and Manmohan Singh? They are the notable economists of our country who have immensely contributed in formulating economic policies for our country. An economist evaluates economic trends and predicts future. They do it by adopting research, collecting and analysing data on a variety of topics ranging from inflation, taxes, interest rates, employment levels to name a few.

To be an economist, math is regarded as an indispensable tool. To be an economist, you need to be good in math along with Bachelor’s in Economics, followed by a Master’s in Economics/Econometrics/Applied Economics.

Video | Study abroad after class 12

Market researcher: A few years back, a famous snack brand wanted to launch a new flavour. They did a market survey to understand the acceptability of such a product. However, the survey results were not in favour of the product and the company immediately called off the idea of launching it. Therefore, the role of a market researcher is quite interesting and important. Market research findings have saved many lakhs for the brand.

As a market researcher, you will gather and analyse data about market conditions, competitors and customers. The results of such an analysis form the basis of launching or cancelling the launch of a certain product. To pursue this career, one needs to have graduation in mathematics, statistics, economics or psychology.

Psychometrician: Psychometrician designs set of questions/quizzes to measure different psychological traits such as: ‘She is an introvert’, ‘she keeps secrets’ ‘he is very good in logical reasoning’ etc. A psychometric test reveals different personality traits including aptitude, intelligence, and behavioural traits.

GLOBAL MARKET, business, global business, stock market, world stock market, wall street stocks, global economy, global economy risk, indian express
An investor walks in front of private stock trading boards at a private stock market gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

Stock market analyst: The maths enthusiast also can chart a career as a stock analyst often referred to as equity analysts. Such analyst works in both buy-side and sell-side firms who produce research reports, projections, and recommendations about stocks and companies. Individuals who are good in maths have the analytical bent of mind that helps him/her to do a lot of data analysis, solve problems and thrive in this career option.

The above is a list of professions I find very interesting for a math lover person where the person can be around numbers and doing the tasks s/he would love to do.

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The Math All Around Us

A middle school math teacher on how to make real-world math connections during field trips and interdisciplinary projects.

By Alessandra King
March 13, 2019
Two elementary school girls wearing backpacks, looking in a large tank at an aquarium
The math team at my school never lets an activity or event—from morning assemblies to field trips—pass without highlighting important or interesting mathematical connections. Few if any of these events were intended to serve the math curriculum, but we find ways to make it work.

Morning assemblies, for example, can be a good time for a continuing program of quick creativity boosters. There are many possible themes: Important Historical Problems and Their Current Applications, Logic Puzzles and Riddles, and Counterintuitive Problems.

A program like this can be run by a group of teachers or students. If your school has one, your Math Club can select the problems, or the winners of one round can be asked to present the next problem. In short, this can be as fun and creative as the people envisioning it.

Two elementary school girls wearing backpacks, looking in a large tank at an aquarium

We also try to integrate some mathematics in field trips the students take for other subject areas. For example, a trip to an aquarium can incorporate estimation problems regarding the size of a particular pool, the amount of money made by the aquarium per day in ticket sales, and the ratios between the (linear) dimensions of various animals. A trip to an art museum is a chance to ask students to recognize and name 2D and 3D figures in different parts of the building and in paintings, to calculate surface areas and volumes, and so on.


My school has another very important way to make mathematical connections to other content: We set aside time each year for students to focus on a particular topic and draw connections between various subjects, using the resources we have in the school and in the surrounding area. Often driven by the language arts or social studies curriculum, these days are experiences that are intended to deepen students’ understanding of a topic—they are open-ended and can be highly interdisciplinary.

Although not all schools set aside time this way, you may be able to work with a teacher or teachers in different subjects to give students an interdisciplinary view of a topic. In this kind of inquiry-based, integrative work, the students may listen to a speaker or watch a video or take a field trip to frame the essential question and then, working in groups, follow a series of rotations that tackle the issue from different angles.

In our school, each rotation takes one class period—50 to 60 minutes—but the lengths of the lessons discussed here can be adjusted to whatever schedule works for your school and your team. The mathematical content of these lessons is very rich and not usually studied in the regular curriculum because these are mostly topics of discrete mathematics, so you can create and use conceptual material and activities and adjust your goals to fit the time available.

When we organize these interdisciplinary events at my school, we make sure there’s always a math-centered rotation. For example, during a day of studies about civil rights, we talked about various voting systems. Students were fascinated to learn that there are several, and that none are perfect—see Arrow’s impossibility theorem. In the same lesson, they played the Redistricting Game, which explores how changes to electoral maps can impact the outcomes of elections.

As part of an interdisciplinary exercise on indigenous Central and South American civilizations, we studied the Mayan and Aztec numerical systems to gain a deeper understanding of the Hindu-Arabic number system that we use, and then moved on to look at the binary system used in computers.

And on a day devoted to the Golden Age of Islam, we learned how quadratic equations were approached historically, and solved by Arab mathematicians by generalizing the completing-the-square method. After representing the method analytically and geometrically, we figured out how the quadratic formula came to be, which gave the students a much better grasp of it.

Our next interdisciplinary exercise will be based on the documentary Promises as the students are studying the Middle East—the film is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The history teachers will underline the topics of community building, land distribution, conflict resolution, biases, and segregation. One of the social studies teachers accepted the math team’s suggestion to have students spend part of her rotation playing the Parable of the Polygons, a simple online game that shows how seemingly harmless choices by individuals can lead to institutional bias.

The game is based on the work of Nobel Prize–winning game theorist Thomas Schelling, so the math team will present a lesson on Schelling and John Nash—the subject of the film A Beautiful Mind—and their work on game theory, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and the evolution of trust.

Promises documents the intertwined lives of Israeli and Palestinian children, and a social studies teacher and a math teacher will use another rotation to discuss fair division—a topic of discrete mathematics that’s hardly ever taught in the regular school curriculum, even though it’s very useful in real life.

These kinds of interdisciplinary exercises show students in a concrete way that mathematics is a tool they can use to quantitatively understand the world around them.

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Why maths should be more about learning to think well and nurturing curiosity, and less about tests and assessment

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Why maths should be more about learning to think well and nurturing curiosity, and less about tests and assessment – Dr. Eugenia Cheng, Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Pianist and Author
on April 18, 2018 in Blogs Leave a comment
Dr Eugenia Cheng – Math-Music-Talk
Dr. Eugenia Cheng is Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an Honorary Fellow of the University of Sheffield and Honorary Visiting Fellow of City University, London. Previously she was a senior lecturer (associate professor) of pure mathematics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield. After being a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Chicago, Eugenia has been based in Chicago ever since, though she still frequently works and gives talks in Europe.

Dr Eugenia Cheng
Dr. Eugenia Cheng – image © RoundTurnerPhotography.com

“…maths is about thinking logically, and it would be rather helpful if more people in the world were able to think logically…”

There’s no need to be “normal”
I began my career as a “normal” career academic, although my friends and family will tell you I’ve never been particularly normal. I wanted to be a mathematician because maths is the only thing that satisfies my deepest need to ask “why?” about everything. I wanted to be in education because I have always believed that is the best contribution I could make to society.

Eventually I decided I needed to do more than just research and undergraduate teaching. I believe in using one’s talents to help the world in the way that makes best use of those talents. I decided that mine were more urgently needed in the realm of mathematics education and popularisation.

Eugenia-Cheng—How-to-Bake-Pi-coverI had already been making mathematics videos on YouTube since 2007, but they were initially aimed at graduate students and then undergraduates. I shifted to making videos for a general audience. I started doing more media work to reach more people outside the world of universities. I wrote my first book, How to Bake Pi, aimed at a very wide audience. After a few years of transition, I resigned from my tenured academic job in order to pursue a portfolio career with a big emphasis on bringing mathematics to a wider audience.

Mathematician / pianist
I am now based in Chicago, although I still work in Europe frequently, and my work encompasses a range of activities including research in category theory, undergraduate teaching, writing books for a general audience, public speaking, outreach projects, school visits, professional development for teachers, mathematical art and also music.

I perform classical music as a solo and collaborative pianist, running the Liederstube, a non-for-profit I founded to bring classical music to a wider audience, giving piano lessons and voice coaching.

Celebrating the links between maths and art
There are many misconceptions about maths including that it’s all about numbers, equations and formulae, about getting the right answer, that it’s black and white, and all just right or wrong.

There is a contrived boundary between maths and art, where art is often seen as “creative” and where maths is seen as not creative. This is very far from the truth, but it’s just that maths is often taught in rigid ways at school, without scope for open-endedness, interpretation and creativity. Celebrating links between maths and art can help people see that they aren’t so different after all.

Ridding the world of maths phobia
Dr Eugenia-ChengIt makes me sad that so many people are put off maths for the wrong reasons, because they are given the wrong impression of what maths really is at school. If people see what maths really is and still don’t like it, that’s different!

I think it’s important because maths is about thinking logically, and it would be rather helpful if more people in the world were able to think logically. I think we can all help to put an end to it by being more open to the fact that what was given to us as “maths” at school wasn’t necessarily representative of what maths really is.

We need to be open to the fact that it’s about thinking, not about solving contrived problems or equations that you never see again in life. I also wish people would stop boasting about being bad at maths and stop making fun of people who like it. We also need to reform the education system so that it’s more about learning to think well and nurturing curiosity, and less about tests and assessment.

Maths is anything but boring
Dr Eugenia-Cheng—Beyond-Infinity-coverI understand why some people might think that maths is boring if they have only had boring maths lessons at school. I would urge them to believe that maths isn’t actually like those lessons, and it’s not just about numbers and equations, but about thinking logically and clearly. And don’t they want to be able to do that better?

Encouraging more girls to get interested, and crucially stay interested, in maths
Maths is often presented in a very competitive way, with emphasis on right answers and a sense of shame if you get the wrong answer. I think girls might feel worse about that than boys. Progressing at maths at a high level involves feeling stupid a lot of the time, even for successful researchers, and again I think that girls might be more put off than that by boys.

At least, people with a lot of self-confidence are less susceptible to feeling stupid, whereas those who are aware of their own failings and seek external measures of worth will be put off by feeling stupid about maths. This doesn’t mean they’re worse at it – in fact it might mean they’re better, as they’re not over-estimating their own abilities.

So, I think we need to encourage anyone who underestimates their own abilities and is worried about getting things wrong. This might correlate with girls, but in any case, it will be in a step in the right direction as these are the types of character traits that probably cause people to be put off maths even though they have a lot of potential. We are currently wasting all that potential.

Using baking analogies to illustrate the commonalities in the methods and principles of mathematics and cooking
Dr Eugenia-ChengI love cooking and I love maths, but unfortunately most people love cooking more than maths. However, maths is more like cooking than most people realise – you take some ingredients, and you put them together in different ways and you get different things. And then you can see if you think it’s delicious or not.

People think maths is about a whole lot of rules that you have to follow, but at the research level you make up your own rules and then do what you like, as long as you stick to your own rules. It’s like making up your own recipes in the kitchen, instead of just following other people’s recipes all the time. I think it’s a real shame that most people never get to the part of maths where you get to make things up, so I decided I would just show it to everyone even if they can’t do research level maths themselves.

The Art of Logic
My next book is The Art of Logic and is coming out in July. It uses mathematical and logical thinking to address social issues and disagreements. I’m very excited about it.



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Math Puzzles

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Life Through A Mathematician's Eyes

Math games or puzzles have been one of the best tools to engage children to the beauty of mathematics. Generally speaking, a mathematical game is a game whose rules, strategies and outcomes are defined by clear mathematical parameters. Most of the time these games have very easy to understand rules and procedures. Some of the most popular examples are Tic-Tac-Toe, Dots and Boxes and Rubik’s Cube.

If you have seen my holiday post, you probably saw a lot of images with some great math games, or brain teasers. Nowadays, these games can be found everywhere and I believe it is very important to play with them. Most people consider them children games, but I think they are appropriate for any age.

Moreover, these games can lead to very interesting mathematical questions. The most famous example is the Rubik’s Cube. It is a 3-D combination puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor…

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PODSETNIK: Najčešće greške prilikom izrade referata, maturskih i seminarskih radova

Računarstvo i informatika

Bez obzira da li je reč o izradi referata, seminarskih ili maturskih radova, učenici ponavljaju uglavnom iste greške. Pre nekoliko godina odlučila sam da na jednom mestu navedem najčešće greške i savete za njihov izbegavanje u nadi da će se broj grešaka smanjiti, a jednog dana možda i potpuno iščeznuti. Neke od navedenih grešaka su i dalje prisutne, zato sledi podsetik za sve učenike koji će ovih dana pisati svoje referate i maturske radove 🙂

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